NFL Wire News

2015 Raiders most stable in years


The Sports Xchange

ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Oakland Raiders finished their preseason with three consecutive defeats, averaged 71.5 yards per game on the ground and ended up cutting two players whose bonus money suggested they were projections for the eventual 53-man roster.

Yet, as head coach Jack Del Rio rested most of his starters in a 31-21 loss to the Seattle Seahawks before making final moves to shape the 2015 team, most, if not all, was right with the world.

“It’s been a real productive camp, a productive preseason in terms of being able to evaluate and establishing certain things we’re going to be about as a football team,” Del Rio said. “Now we put that to rest and get ready for Cincinnati coming in.”

With health being the No. 1 priority for NFL teams during training camp and the preseason, the Raiders lost just one player — first-team right tackle Menelik Watson, who will spend 2015 on injured reserve rehabbing a torn Achilles.

Although the won-loss record doesn’t show it, the Raiders enter the season with a higher level of stability under Del Rio compared to what was seen under his recent predecessors.

While there were switches at quarterback in each of the last two seasons (Terrelle Pryor for Matt Flynn, Derek Carr for Matt Schaub), Carr enters this season as the most established starter since Rich Gannon in 2004.

Carr got the night off against Seattle, and the number of players who joined him as spectators speaks to a level of confidence in the talent on hand as opposed to the mad scrambles of Dennis Allen the last three seasons to formulate a roster for the regular season.

Matt McGloin won the backup quarterback job by clearly outperforming Chrstian Ponder, or for that matter, the starter Carr.

Against Seattle, McGloin was 16 of 24 for 186 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions despite no running game and a persistent pass rush. He was 11 of 15 for 114 yards and a touchdown against Arizona and finished the preseason completing 73.4 percent of his passes with a passer rating of 110.6.

An undrafted free agent out of Penn State in 2013, McGloin beat out fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson to make the roster as a rookie and ended up starting six games, including a win in his first start.

This season, he beat out Ponder, who had an 81.2 passer rating and in most other seasons would have held on to his job as a backup.

“It’s not my decision,” McGloin said. “Every day I focus on showing up, working hard in the film room, working hard in the weight room and doing my best on the practice field to be ready to play if they want me to play.”

Del Rio said McGloin made the decision an easy one.

“He just really was the better guy in our evaluation,” Del Rio said. “We appreciated the effort and the healthy competition that they had, but in the end we felt it was the right choice for us to go with Matt.”

Also sitting out the preseason finale were starting receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, running backs Latavius Murray and Marcel Reece, tight end Lee Smith, center Rodney Hudson, guards Gabe Jackson and J’Marcus Webb and tackle Donald Penn.

On defense, strong-side linebacker/defensive end Khalil Mack, tackles Dan Williams and Justin Ellis, end Justin Tuck, middle linebacker Curtis Lofton and linebackers Ray-Ray Armstrong and Malcolm Smith did not play. Neither did three of the four secondary starters — safeties Charles Woodson and Nate Allen and right cornerback T.J. Carrie.

“I think it’s important to keep perspective this time of year,” Del Rio said. “We have prepared our team well. We had one significant injury and that was unfortunate. We have made a lot of improvement.”

Del Rio said from the outset roster spots would be determined by performance, and in two instances, players who appeared to be fairly assured of a role were let go.

Running back Trent Richardson, the former No. 3 overall pick of the Cleveland Browns, was released despite a $600,000 signing bonus. Ponder received a $1.5 million bonus and was let go in favor of McGloin despite a prior relationship with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave with the Minnesota Vikings.

–Raiders owner Mark Davis is adamant about his wishes to keep the franchise in Oakland, but has seen no progress on that happening beyond the expiration of the current lease.

The Raiders remain on a “parallel track” while pursuing a Carson project along with the San Diego Chargers, but that deal, while far from a sure thing, is on firm ground compared to the Bay Area.

“In six months, we’ve purchased a parcel of land, we’ve gotten the financing, we’ve got through the development process and worked with the political people,” Davis told the San Jose Mercury News. “In 10 years with Oakland, we don’t even have a parcel of land that we know for sure is the placce we can build. We don’t have one person we know that can make a deal. We don’t even know who we’re supposed to talk to. We don’t know who to negotiate with. I’m serious.”

Notes: Safety Keenan Lambert was claimed off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks, with the Raiders releasing undrafed free-agent cornerback SaQwan Edwards. … Wide receiver Andre Holmes, out with a broken bone in his hand for three weeks, was practicing Sunday as the Raiders met to begin preparing for the season opener. … Interior offensive lineman Matt McCants made the 53-man roster despite having a very difficult game against Seattle in the preseason finale. … Fullback Jamize Olawale missed much of training camp and the preseason with a foot injury but secured a spot on the 53-man roster, largely due to his play on special teams. … Safety Brandian Ross, who had considerable playing time the past two seasons, was placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury. … Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, signed the week of the final preseason game, made the 53-man roster in a reserve role and to play on special teams.

About The Sports Xchange

Since 1987, the Sports Xchange has been the best source of information and analysis for the top professionals in the sports publishing & information business